Angela Lansbury, ‘Murder, She Wrote’ actress and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ star, dies at 96

Angela Lansbury, an Oscar nominee and Tony award winning actress, whose work spanned decades has died. She was 96.

“The children of Dame Angela Lansbury are sad to announce that their mother died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles at 1:30 AM today, Tuesday, October 11, 2022, just five days shy of her 97th birthday,” her family said in a statement. 

Born Angela Brigid Lansbury on October 16, 1923, in London, England, she suffered immense grief when her father passed away when she was just nine years old.

Lansbury – called Brigid by her family when growing up – was filled with heartbreak, but performance became something of a tool to help her through it all. She revealed that it was” the defining moment of my life.”

“Nothing before or since has ever affected me so deeply,” she told Closer. “I became something of a dreamer, lost in my grief [and] much more interested in acting, following the example of my mother.”

Moreover, Lansbury explained that she always wanted people to notice her when she was a child. So she was pretty much always acting – even though she didn’t know it herself.

Actress Angela Lansbury a scene from the movie “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (Photo by Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)

“At the age of 11 or 12, I remember sitting on buses and trying to look interesting. Or I would get people’s attention by saying something kind of outlandish that simply sounded as if I knew something they didn’t know.

“[I was] taking on the emotional and mental aspects of somebody other than Brigid. So I was acting through a great deal of my life without even realizing that that’s what I was doing.”

Lansbury and her family moved to New York in August 1940. It was there where she enrolled in Feagin School of Dramatic Art. She starred in several student productions, but after two years her family moved to Los Angeles.

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 14: Actress Angela Lansbury attends the 2016 WNET Gala Salute To New York at The Plaza Hotel on June 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic)

Rather than continue to pursue her dream career, Lansbury was forced to help support her family which meant working at a department store.

But in 1944 she got her first significant role when she starred alongside Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight, playing the housemaid, Nancy.

“That was a thrilling experience, to work with Ingrid [Bergman], who was so kind. It was sort of a dream world,” she recalled.

“I was so young; I was really awed by what I was being asked to do. And when you’re challenged like that, you damn well do your best.”

Angela Lansbury during Reception Honoring the Chairman of Rai Radio TV Italiana at Chasen’s Restaurant in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Even though it was her first ever professional role, the then-19-year-old Angela Lansbury showed the whole world that she was a pro from the start. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Gaslight. A year later, she was nominated for another Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Rolefor The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The success of Gaslight brought Angela Lansbury instant fame, and the big studios wanted a piece of it.

She secured a seven-year contract with film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, earning around $500 per week. She also had the option of changing to a stage name at that point but decided to continue using her own.

Angela Lansbury
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Once she signed with a studio, her career took off and she starred in several films each year.

Many of Lansbury’s roles had one thing in common; she often played characters much older than she was.

In her 30s, she played several motherly roles – without the use of aging make-up. Incredibly, only three years separated her and her on-screen son Laurence Harvey in the 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate. The picture also brought her a third Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

Angela Lansbury

“I had no adolescence,” she told The Gentle Woman in 2012. “And I was too busy preparing to become an actress. It never occurred to me not to go on, not for one second. Nor did I think I was missing anything.”

During the beginning of 80 years of success, she met and married her first husband, actor Richard Cromwell. However, their marriage only lasted one year.

When Angela found a note from Cromwell declaring that their marriage must end, she was devastated. She did not understand anything, and it was only when Cromwell’s publicist told her that the actor was gay that Angela understood why their marriage became an impossibility.

Although they split, they remained friends until Cromwell’s death in 1960.

She would go on to meet Peter Shaw, who she married in 1949.

Actress Angela Lansbury and her husband Peter Shaw attending the premiere of the movie ‘The Glass Menagerie’, 1950. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

“We had the perfect relationship,” Angela Lansbury said of their marriage in 2014.

“Not many people can say that. He was everything to me: we were partners at work as well as husband and wife and lovers. I don’t know how we had such a long marriage, but the simple fact was that we were devoted to one another.” 

Angela and her husband Peter went on to welcome two children. In 1952, son Anthony Pullen Shaw was born. One year later, they welcomed daughter, Deidre Angela Shaw.

Angela Lansbury, Peter Shaw
WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

The couple had a wonderful union that lasted over 50 years. Unfortunately, in 2003, Peter sadly passed away of congestive heart failure in their home in Brentwood, California. Losing the love of her life was a massive tragedy for Angela, who sunk into a deep depression, closing herself off from the world for a while.

Angela Lansbury holds a book in publicity portrait for the television series ‘Murder, She Wrote’, Circa 1984. (Photo by CBS/Getty Images)

Throughout her entire life, Lansbury performed both in front of the screen and on stage, earning Academy Award nominations, Tony Awards, and two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

She starred as Mrs. Lovett in the original 1979 production of Sweeney Todd and Madame Arcati in the 2009 revival of Blithe Spirit, both which she won a Tony for.

In 1984 she once again became the talk of the town as she appeared as writer Jessica Fletcher in the U.S. television series Murder, She Wrote. Her agent had advised her to star in another sitcom television series, but history tells us Angela made the right move – the show was a huge success, while Lansbury stayed on it until 1996.

While starring in Murder, She Wrote, the award-winning actress also voiced characters in Beauty and the Beast and Anastasia.

As recently as 2018, Lansbury, who was made dame by Queen Elizabeth II, starred in Mary Poppins Returns. And during the 2022 Tony Awards, she received the 2022 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

Angela, you were a wonderful actress to watch on the stage and on the screen. Your talent will never, ever be forgotten.

May you rest in peace.